We plan everything that we enjoy: vacations, holiday gift lists and parties. But planning for our senior years, which usually begins with retirement and ends at death, is something most people loathe to do. Planning for this stage of life can make the good parts more productive and enjoyable.
Failing to plan for the expected events of senior years, both pleasant and unpleasant, puts individuals and their loved ones at a disadvantage. Scrambling to get documents in place and make arrangements when time is short or you are operating in crisis mode can be avoided with advance planning.
Here are seven things from The Tulsa World's article, entitled "Aging Oklahoma: Seven things baby boomers should know about dying," that we all need to know about preparing for the inevitable end.
- Talk about death when you are healthy. We all want to shy away from these discussions, and recent retirees avoid thinking about what to do when their health fails. Think about your golden years with these questions: How do I want to live my senior years, what's important, and what do I want to accomplish? Next think about your final years: What happens if you become incapacitated? Where will you live?
- Understand All Options. One end-of-life option is hospice. A person is eligible for hospice care under Medicare if a physician has diagnosed a terminal illness and the person has fewer than six months to live (in an illness' natural course). Hospice care can be provided on an in-patient basis or at home. Medicare doesn't provide 24-hour care for those in hospice, so a caregiver (usually a family member) must provide care for home-based plans.
- Make your wishes clear in documents. There are several documents you may need: a will, trusts, advanced directives (also called a living will) and durable powers of attorney for health care. A trust may be desired for numerous reasons, including benefits maintenance for a special needs child or an estate with taxation issues. A health care directive is designed for patients who have life-limiting and irreversible conditions. This form indicates what kind of life-sustaining treatment you would like to receive.
- Get finances organized with an option for access by others. Gather your financial information and establish a plan for someone else to take over. Make sure he or she can find the savings, investments, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and stocks and bonds. Who will pay bills in an emergency and who can access bank accounts?
- Make a list of key people. Talk to your family and the executor of your will about your financial, legal, health, and insurance plans and records. Make a list of the involved individuals and their contact information. Your executor should know where these documents are kept and have easy access.
- Let others know what to do with your body. It's important to let family members know about your wishes for a funeral, cremation, burial, or entombment. You can also pre-plan and pre-pay for those services to save time, money, and stress.
- Keep talking. This discussion shouldn't be a one-time event. The issue should be periodically revisited and discussed in detail as plans are put into place.
You'll have a far better chance of having your wishes respected and carried out if you make these plans and have these conversations well in advance.
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